NASSCOM believes that the changes announced to the H-1B visa program will restrict access to talent and will harm the American economy, endanger U.S. jobs, put U.S. interests at risk, slowing down R&D into solutions to the COVID crisis. It is important for the U.S. market to be able to access skilled talent for its businesses, especially during the COVID recovery phase.

The new rules notified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Labor (DoL) for the H-1B visa regime, changes the definitions of specialty occupation, employer, & employee-employer relationship, and limits the validity of an H-1B visa to one year for a worker placed at a third-party worksite; it also increases enforcement and investigations for these visas. The new rules also changes the current four-tiered prevailing wage system for jobs that U.S. employers seek to fill with foreign workers. Both rules will be issued as Interim Final Rules (IFRs), without any notice period or right to comment.

These regulations seem to be based on misinformation about the programme and runs counter-productive to their very objective of saving the American economy and jobs. This is particularly relevant at a time when U.S. businesses continues to face a huge deficit of STEM skills: overall U.S. unemployment rate grew from 4.1% in Jan-2020 to 8.4% in August-2020; while unemployment in computer occupations declined from 3% to 2.5% in this period. In the 30-day period ending 28th September 2020, there were over 652,000 active job vacancy postings advertised online for jobs in computer occupations: up from 625,000 vacancies in the 30-day period ending 13th May 2020. That is, despite high degree of overall unemployment in U.S., demand for high-tech skills continues to remain robust – clearly endorsing the argument that there are just not enough workers with relevant skills to fill them. The new rules announced will worsen this talent gap by making it more difficult for U.S. employers to hire foreign workers.